Desislava Tsoneva tells us the story of her grandmother Pena Chehlarova from Bulgaria:
My grandmother Pena Chehlarova was born in 1932 in a small village in the Balkan Mountain called Charkovo in a family of a house wife working at the field and a father having a mill who became later a co-founder of the Ethnographic Museum for Traditional Art Crafts ETAR. They were all five children (something usual at that period in Bulgaria) not really a rich family, but she managed to graduate Lady College in the city of Gabrovo and after that got arranged marriage with a man ten years older than her and a shoemaker.
Her real life started with the family. A mother of two and co-founder of theatre and dance group based on traditional Bulgarian folklore from the central Balkan region, she was also managing the library, collecting old music from the village people and restarting traditional clothes. My grandma was one of the most significant people in the field of local culture. As it was usual during the communism, she was honoured with medals and certificates but her best prize was the love of the people. Now she is one of the last old person in the village, still managing the local cultural problems, such as saving the church that is under ruined, helping in the library (her passion are still the books and especially poetry), organizing celebrations for the community in order to keep the old people together and not lonely.
As I was a child I use to spend the summers with her and my grandpa, working on the field, having a nap at midday and reading book after book. My grandma is a photographer, a researcher, collector of stories and old traditions keeper. She is brilliant in cooking, herbal encyclopaedia and a very sentimental and artistic person.
Now she lives alone after the death of my grandpa with 94. She said once I am making my family sad while travelling around the world, not getting married and thinking mostly about my art projects instead of having children. But thanks to the books she made me read I became that vagabond, sleepless dreamer and better world believer…